Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places…

19 Apr

I have no choice but to blame my little brother. It’s his fault that this shenanigan publication finds its way into my mailbox once a month. Something about selling magazines for a band fundraiser. It was either this or a subscription to House Beautiful so I chose the lesser of two evils, or so I thought. Previously, I sort of boycotted Essence magazine, only picking it up if it was laying on some friend’s coffee table or in a doctor’s waiting room. But, alas, now I am confronted with its ridiculousness every month. The May issue brought Jill Scott’s bright-eyed and smiling face to greet me and I thought “maybe I’ll actually give this one a read instead of tossing it in the pile by the fireplace.” So I opened it up and went straight to page 92 to read an article entitled “Why Don’t We Get Married.” I should have known better, but instead I chose to be naïve, deluding myself into thinking this just might be an article about the myriad reasons why Black folks choose not to marry or why they are not allowed to marry. Including the fact that some of us aren’t even interested in marriage (either personally or politically) or—Gasp! Shock! Horror!—that there are actually Black gays and lesbians who might just be affected by this pesky federal ban on gay marriage! Of course, this was not the case.
Instead it was an article that quickly devolved into talking about what’s wrong with Black women and what we can do to “fix” ourselves to be better mates for Black men. The article was a reprint of a Q&A style discussion with about six Black women and men and was moderated by the Essence Relationship Editor Demetria Lucas and comedian Finesse Mitchell, whose qualifications simply listed him as “Dating Specialist.” As an aside, I’d like to know where to go to buy one of these certifications that makes you a specialist, expert or guru ‘cause somebody’s gotta be sellin ‘em – maybe I’ll check eBay! But I digress, much like the quality of the article, which trafficked in the same tired stereotypes of fat, lazy, loud emasculating Black women who can’t get or keep a man. Lucas kicked it off by asking where all the fellas have been hiding. According to the “brothers” present for this Q&A session, there are hoards of Black men at the gym where, apparently, they are safe from the clutches of Black women since NONE of us EVER work out! As a matter of fact, according to Finesse Mitchell, “the young chicks and the ones who just broke up with their man or who are trying to lose baby weight are in the gym. But women who have a man? They stop going to the gym.” There are tons more of these little nuggets in the article, check it out if you can stomach this kind of nonsense. However, the final straw for me was Essence’s willingness to traffic in one of the most dangerous yet powerful trends in popular culture’s current fascination with Black women’s love lives: the myth of scarcity.
The article ends with Lucas soliciting a little dating advice from the brothers for the single sisters looking for love. Who are told simply but poignantly “Don’t date like a man. Guys are constantly shuffling women, and women think they can do the same. But your deck runs out…” It’s this kind of “reasoning” that silences black women and ushers us back into an uneasy alliance with a “benevolent” patriarchy. Under the guise of brotherly advice, Black women are basically told that we just don’t have the option to be picky; there simply just aren’t enough brothers to go around. We need to find a brother, good, bad or indifferent, close our mouths, stick with him and hope he proves Kanye wrong by not leaving us for a white girl. But, what Essence and Finesse Mitchell left out is that the myth is only a threat if we can safely assume all Black women are only and always interested in dating Black men. The rub, however, is that we can’t assume that. Black women find love, sex, companionship and community in so many dynamic and amazing ways and we are selling ourselves short if we think there simply ain’t enough loving to go around!

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17 Responses to “Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places…”

  1. crunktastic April 19, 2010 at 8:53 AM #

    CF, you have brought the NOISE, this Monday morning, and done my crunktastic spirit loads of good!!! They simply ain’t ready. Thank you for what is a cogent and insightful analysis of the bullshit that masquerades as helpful advice for black women. Thank you for blowing the whistle on this month’s Essence. I, too, was tempted after I saw Jilly from Philly’s smiling face, but given last months shamtastic post on interracial dating, I’m looking at her sideways right about now.

  2. Benee April 19, 2010 at 11:40 AM #

    Essence is the bane of Black society. Really and truly. I only get it because I got it for $2/year after giving feedback on a movie I bought tickets for through Fandango. How they can have the “Broke Ass Sistagirl, Get Yo Money Right!!!” articles next to adverts for $30,000 watches and $8,000 coats? Shut. Up.

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

    This magazine is notorious for ignoring the LGBT community. But, the “Black Community”, in my opinion, is extremely heterosexist, so… I’m not surprised? It might be nice to hear more about LGBT relationship options, but the only time they mention same-sex anything is in the context of how women need to be more freaky to please their men. Great.

    This magazine is also notorious for trying to iron out every kink in Black women, literally and figuratively. Nappy? No love. Plus-sized? No love. Deep, dark chocolate hue? No love. So… Essence can E.A.D. (figure that out… I’ll wait)

    But whats interesting is that, to me, it seems they’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to convince heterosexual sistas that they NEED to date outside of their race. How have they done that? By highlighting every imaginable problem with the “Black Man” (perpetuating the myth of scarcity, for one). By telling us we need to explore ALL options. Etc. Then, they interview these so-called bachelors who want to give tips, but I’m sorry, can I really trust a single Black male actually speaking to someone from Essence? I’m not so sure he’s actually interested in my…ummm… feminine parts?

    Truth of the matter is… we do get married. Most Black men do marry Black women. Is the percentage of Black men who marry outside of their race disproportionate? Yes. 12% is a big number. But that leaves 88% who DO marry intra-racially. E.A.D. Essence!! Are Black women obtaining more education and ascending in their careers faster than Black men? Statistically, yes. But, does that automatically mean there is NO hope for Black people to come together and just love? Absolutely not.

    I’m really sick of all of this hot topic talk about the sorry state of the Black Female Romantic Life. Remember when the “DL” was the major thing? Do we even remember the name of the dude who wrote that book? Why are they taking the Tyler Perry approach and assuming that a Black woman can only be truly happy and whole when she finds a good Black man to submit to? Blech!

  3. happybrowngirl April 19, 2010 at 11:59 AM #

    I have long taken my ball and gone home when it comes to Essence. Not even the awesome fashion layouts with gorgeous sisters can keep me interested. It’s a schizophrenic magazine that can’t decide what it wants to be about and this has been going on for awhile now.

    All that to say that it’s frightening that Essence can’t even see how they can take advantage of this trend by elevating the quality of the conversation on behalf of those black women who read the magazine and take it seriously. Instead it’s the same circus, just with different clowns!

    If Essence is serious about helping black women enjoy successful relationships that lead to marriage then they need to do more than just give people the space to repeat the same old tired memes for the 50-11th time and label it “candid.” Help them to think differently about themselves and their choices in a real and meaningful way.

    Methinks we need a “Take Back the Conversation” movement! Also, we need another magazine geared to black women (and nobody better say anything about Honey, Fierce, Suede or whatever entity old Vibe tried out in the past, lol).

    • Emekan April 20, 2010 at 5:28 PM #

      Starting a magazine would be a BRILLIANT idea!

      What if it were simply called “Agency?” It makes sense: if the magazine is geared towards Black Women’s empowerment, it gives readers the agency that magazines like Essence take away.

      This is an amazing blog, and I’m so happy to have come across it. Keep going strong! :D

  4. Benee April 19, 2010 at 3:07 PM #

    While Essence has become the Chocolate Cosmo, Ebony has silently but surely taken the reigns as a quality magazine focused on Black interests. I look forward to Ebony these days, as the quality has drastically improved over the years and the articles and discussions are far more intelligent and relevant.

  5. Kia, JD April 19, 2010 at 5:36 PM #

    I think it was Shani-O from the PostBourgie crew who said that the media’s message to Black women as of late has been “Black women, just quit life.” That sums it up. Turn on the TV, pick up a paper, log on to Twitter and it’s all bad:
    – You will never get married.
    – You’re overweight and going to die.
    – Half of you have Herpes.
    – You’re all gold diggers.
    – Your net worth is $5.

    Ugh. What is the fascination with trying to “understand the pathology of being a Black woman”? Spare me.

  6. AARF April 19, 2010 at 9:52 PM #

    I try not to pick up any magazines! They all breed self loathing and trying to figure out how to be skinnier, prettier, more appealing to men. Yes, we live in a heteronormative country/world, and yes, people love love, but seriously! If you look at Cosmo, that is the MAIN focus, and Essence seems to be going that direction. We need more activism and spirituality in our lives ladies! It’s not even only black women, but all women. We are all catty, fighting savagely over ‘our man’ when we have him [and according to this article only working out during that time in our lives] and crying when we don’t. WTF?!!? I refuse to be stereotyped!

  7. ashafrench April 20, 2010 at 6:55 AM #

    Yes! Thank you for this! This is timely and on point. Essence has pretty covers, which tricks me into thinking that I will also be mirrored in the print. So wrong. Essence speaks, and has long spoken, to the most desperate in us. I mean seriously, someone should count the number of “how to love a black man” and “why men cheat” articles in the magazine’s history.

    • AARF April 20, 2010 at 9:10 AM #

      It does make you wonder if all the writers convene together and say ‘this month YOU get ‘how to have better orgasms’ and this month YOU get ‘how to get him back’….It’s all so sickening. BTW; are there any GOOD magazines I can subscribe to that anyone knows about? I am a 20 year old college student just flirting with feminism…any advice?

      • happybrowngirl April 20, 2010 at 10:44 PM #

        @AARF

        Try the indie magazine called Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture!

        I have read it for years and continue to enjoy it.

      • ashafrench April 21, 2010 at 6:44 AM #

        I agree with happybrowngirl. I don’t subscribe, but I enjoy flipping through that magazine when I get my hands on one. I used to like Jane, but they got more and more commercial and it felt more like reading Seventeen. I’m not even sure if Jane is still in publication.

  8. phillisremastered April 20, 2010 at 4:07 PM #

    I just told a friend that if I believe the statistics, I have a greater chance of being bitten by a rabid dog while I am being struck by lightening while I am climbing Mount Everest than I have of ever having sex again with a black man.

  9. happybrowngirl April 21, 2010 at 7:42 AM #

    Hah! Another voice…The Philadelphia Inquirer…

    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20100420_We_ll_be_just_fine__thank_you.html

  10. Rod S. April 21, 2010 at 9:29 AM #

    Whitney great blog and yes I agree, with the comments as it sounds like time for new direction from a new and upcoming generation. The last generation had its spin and it appears they have spun out of control. So before we are all spun down the drain, it’s time for you and your brilliant commentors to put together a publication or “Agency” that addresses the reality of the whole community which is inclusive of the LGBT. Life is about achieveing balance and harmony with self and the environment in which we live and we can’t have that unless some one or some bodies begin to take a stand against all the media negativity we are constantly bombared with about why we can’t be….

  11. Deborah April 21, 2010 at 12:40 PM #

    At first I thought you should send it to Essence and then realized they wouldn’t / couldn’t get it! Too fresh, too insightful, too truthfull!

  12. Darryl Frierson April 22, 2010 at 3:55 PM #

    I agree with many of the things you say but I will say that the idea of women being the main one’s thrown under the bus is a misnomer. I think its equal. Media also gives black women the green like to bascially say black men aren’t shit just the same. We need to figure out solutions instead of continually pointing the finger

  13. Brittney Highsmith September 12, 2010 at 4:30 PM #

    I recall reading this article when it was published and being glued to the page by the mere audacity of it. There are two things I want to say about this article.

    1) As a person who frequents the gym and has made a total life change towards being healthy, we have to be honest with ourselves as black people and come to terms with that fact that no, as a whole, we have not traditionally taken good care of our bodies, despite the disenfranchisement on our families and communities for food consciousness. It hasn’t been until recently that there is been an evident trend in getting healthy in the black community.

    When I go to the gym, I find almost always, 5 hard body guys to every 1 black female (ratio not realistically counted, but you catch my drift). So while I disagree with the generalized notion that black women don’t take care of themselves. I also wonder about statistical truth within those stereotypes and how that would be measured.

    2) When the comment was made that women shouldn’t act like men, I was appalled. I have learned from experience that men can not seem to handle a woman that owns her sexuality, especially when it doesn’t involve him. I’ve dated women and men (with men being more recent) and my personal findings astonish me every day! I refuse to succumb to that barbaric ideal. I rotate men like tires and see no problem with the notion. I am VERY picky and I don’t see why I can’t shop in bulk like everyone else. I’ve never been called a ho. But if I was, I think I smirk and laugh. Who cares, and mind your business!

    One thing I will say though is that I’ve recently battled with the choice of lying to men about other guys I date or “keeping it real” like I have been. I like the fact that I can be open about my dating because it helps pace the relationship. For those of us who have a tendency to fall fast and hard with that special someone, being honest about other people you are dating can 1)make you that much more of a challenge for dating partners and 2)force you to see the big picture even when your heart has tunnel vision.

    On more than one occasion I’ve had guys tell me that I’m “not exclusive enough” for them or that I “keep too many men around me.” (Note: the “men” that were around me were old friends that were helping me fix my car, not taking me out on dates. [The guy who troubled me about this didn't have the resources to contribute].)

    There is also this notion that because every man wants to have sex with you, that means that you can’t entertain their company without subjecting yourself to sexual advancements and even further, coercion and rape. As if, women shouldn’t behave like men because we can’t protect ourselves, in essence. But this is all to be rejected, of course. #DatingWhileFeminist

    Keep posting great discussions. I’m a huge fan :-)

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